Brave pensioner risks all to rescue dogs from Whitburn cliffside

Bob Cornell and dog Barney climbed down the cliffs to rescue a Dalmation that was stuck on a ledge.
Bob Cornell and dog Barney climbed down the cliffs to rescue a Dalmation that was stuck on a ledge.
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A heroic pensioner risked his life to rescue a dog which had become stuck on cliffs in South Tyneside.

Bob Cornell was walking his own dog, Barney, near Souter yesterday at 11am when he came across a woman whose Dalmatian had gone over the side.

Whitburn cliffs, south of Souter Lighthouse

Whitburn cliffs, south of Souter Lighthouse

The 71-year-old, from Souter View, Whitburn, spotted the missing dog and Barney, a springer spaniel, ran down to join it.

The retired long-distance driver then scrambled down the cliffs to rescue them and all three became stuck.

He said: “When I saw the woman, I just thought I’d keep an eye out for the dog and I spotted it down on a verge. I was looking to see how I could get down when Barney ran down towards it.

“Barney panics when he loses sight of me so I knew I had to get down to help him. The other dog was hurt.

I don’t think what I did was brave, I just knew I had to get to the dogs. Barney was scared and the other dog had injured itself.

Bob Cornell

“I climbed down to them and tried to get them back up but the tide was coming in. I ended up having to walk through the water with them and had to carry the Dalmatian because it wouldn’t go in the water.

“I don’t think what I did was brave, I just knew I had to get to the dogs. Barney was scared and the other dog had injured itself.”

Mr Cornell’s son, Steve Cornell, 39, from South Shields, said: “My dad is a massive animal lover. He’d do anything for them. After he’d spoken to the woman he carried on walking but he soon spotted the dog which was stuck. Dad being dad, he went down right away to help.

“The tide was coming in and the Dalmatian was scared of the water, so dad was trying to carry it.

Bob Cornell and dog Barney climbed down the cliffs to rescue a Dalmation that was stuck on a ledge.

Bob Cornell and dog Barney climbed down the cliffs to rescue a Dalmation that was stuck on a ledge.

“At this point, he had no phone and was by himself, but thankfully a man was out jogging and he then came to his help.”

The runner called the emergency services, but by the time the fire brigade arrived the grandfather-of-seven had managed to scramble back up the cliffs with Barney. The other dog was eventually helped to safety too.

Steve, a taxi driver, said: “By this time my sister had gone out looking for dad, because he had gone a while and she was worried.

“So when she found him she ended up getting involved and helped drag the Dalmatian up the last few feet with the others. I can’t believe dad climbed down the cliff, it could have been a whole different story.

“He’s injured his elbow after bashing it on the rocks, but thankfully everyone is okay.”

Mr Cornell suffered some bruising to his elbow but was not seriously hurt.

A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “When walking at the coast, stay away from cliff edges. They can be crumbly or slippery when wet. Keep your dog on a lead near cliffs.

“If the worst should happen and your dog falls down a cliff, do not attempt to self rescue. Call 999 and ask for the coastguard.”